Good Technical Blogs at Microsoft

by Rick Jelliffe

My favourite technical blogs at MS at the moment are

  • Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog which spruiks and roots and toots about the new GUI for Office. (Java and Linux developers really need to look at this to get an idea of how far Java and Linux will need to come to meet the new bar; I've mentioned the Substance and Flamingo projects at javadesktop.org before.) Jensen writes well and has a light touch.

  • Dare Obasanjo is a good omen for Microsoft's intellectual vitality. Likeable, knowledgable, pro-active and on-message about his own projects, the honesty of his comments on other areas gives credibility to his comments on his own projects. I didn't read any Microsoft technical blogs until I started reading Dare's blog, which overcame my suspicion that the blogs would be reformatted press releases.

  • Brian Jones: Open XML Formats is a goldmine of interesting information, though comments like Let's allow people to choose the formats they want. I'm not sure anyone is opposed to choice. seems a tad insincere unless MS distrubutes an ODF plugin with Office. (My attitude on ODF versus so-called OpenXML is little different to the Groklaw-style cynics or the Peterson-style enthusiasts: I welcome both but have a big eyeroll thinking of the twenty years of missed opportunities which Microsoft has cheated its users out of by not providing an XML interface until recently: I remember trying out their appalling SGML Author for Word more than a decade ago and wishing they just had a simple mini-SGML version of RTF instead, like the Rainbow DTD. I hope the "Open" in "Open XML" refers to a change of thinking in MicroSoft management in favour of agressive interoperability.)


7 Comments

M. David Peterson
2006-05-14 04:00:16
> or the Peterson-style enthusiasts:


This has me both laughing, as well and amazed that I now have a style associated with me.


Not that this style is always a good thing, but if the choice is "Peterson-style" or "Peterson's lack-of-style" I'm going for the first each and every time :)


re: Dare's blog,


You know, I hadn't realized this until you mentioned it, but I have to admit that while I am amazed that Dare has been able to maintain such a high level of both bashing and praise, yet still find himself with a job the next morning is one of the primary reasons I believe that MS has truly embraced the fact that change is needed, and the best way to go about making changes is to let those changes happen in a natural, outspoken, employee-focused manner, as its the employees that know best what changes need to be made and how to make them.


There have been times I have considered sending Dare a private note out of simple worry that he may be taking things too far with various posts, but I have held off out of simple respect the the fact that Dare's an intelligent voice that has the ability, power, and knowledge to begin moving the mountain that sits in front of him as well as the other able minded and bodied hackers they have on campus. He's obviously someone who is willing to tell people what he thinks, and doesn't take concern with offending those in which he feels are the ones standing in the way of progress.


So let 'em (which is what my internal thought has always been each and every time I've considered a private email.)


I worked on campus as a contractor for quite a long space of time during the 90's, and watched as developers, marketing, and management folks spent their time more worried about the current stock price, how many millions their options are currently worth, and the date these options are set be golden. Five years was the magic milestone at that stage. I'm not sure what it is now (I assume the same), but it obviously doesn't matter anymore as cashing out negative value is obviously not something that invokes plans of retirement at the age of 28.


Which is what seemed to me to be a fairly significant problem on campus during the mid to late 90's while I was around. All of this fantastic talent was being lost to Baby-Bill startups after cashing out soon after hitting the magic day that enabled them to. And even during their five year tenure, their minds were focused on other things that we not in the best of interest of MS, and instead the best interest of themselves.


It is my opinion that the greatest thing that could continue to take place at MS is for the profits to continue to rise, yet the stock stay basically level, with a few peaks and troughs to ensure things don't go completely stagnant. Without the ability to focus on a day that they know they can leave with enough money to last the rest of their lives if needs be, and instead a profitable company with a competitive salary, and solid bonus structure based on both individual performance, as well as the performance of their business unit, it seems to me that the mentality that this is a long-term career instead of a layover between their starting and final destination is changing the foundation that the company is now built upon. By forcing folks to realize that there are no more free tickets out the door in five years, is forcing them to think of this as long-term instead of layover. Instead of stock options, their benefits build directly from their dedication to the development of better technology that has the ability to lead the way into the next generation of computing as a force instead of a forgotten has-been. In and of itself, it is my belief that this is what is going to save MS from what could have been the inevitable "Death-by-StockMarket-Success" that was plaguing them for so many years.


Thanks for making me think through this a bit. I believe you are absolutely spot on with all of the folks above. Interesting times ahead for sure! :)

Rick Jelliffe
2006-05-14 07:39:16
On Dave's comment, I don't think I need to buy into MS "truly embracing...that change is needed". Actually, I think it shows that next generation technologies also act as competitors for the current generation; this is true for large and small companies, though the feeling may be particuarly acute in monopolies where the successor technology takes away market share from the legacy; for non-monopolies a next generation technology can find its own market by taking competitors' market share.


Internal competition within a company is always difficult: the approach taken by, for example, TI in the early 90s when their chip sales business was competitor to their computer manufacturing business lead them to close down their computer business (and sell off their printer business).

Brian Jones
2006-05-15 13:42:01
Hey Rick, thanks for the kind words. I hope I can keep providing more useful bits of info and less blurbs that sound insincere, sorry about that. I'd been hearing a number of folks wanting to push for mandates around one particular format, and I was just saying that that approach didn't really make sense to me. There are apparently a couple ODF plug-ins out there today for Microsoft Office, so people really do have that choice if it's what they want. I personally feel that the Open XML formats would be the best way to go, but I'm sure you can understand why I would have that viewpoint. :-)


I'd glad to hear that you like the new direction we've taken around interoperability in Office. We really do have a lot to gain if Office documents can play a more important role in business processes across multiple platforms. It's been a long road and I really feel like we've only just begun. It was fun to see you mention the old SGML plug-in... I wasn't involved in it, but remember looking into it when we were first doing prototypes for our custom defined schema support about 6 or 7 years ago.


-Brian

M. David Peterson
2006-05-21 16:55:49
> Actually, I think it shows that next generation technologies also act as competitors for the current generation; this is true for large and small companies, though the feeling may be particuarly acute in monopolies where the successor technology takes away market share from the legacy; for non-monopolies a next generation technology can find its own market by taking competitors' market share. <


Hmmm.... very good point.


Gives me more to think about for sure... I appreciate the constant supply of information you provide to the rest of us in this regard. It's REALLY helpful to gain understanding and in-site from someone who has your level of experience, of which you share openly and with a level headed perspective.


Thanks!

M. David Peterson
2006-05-21 17:14:37
NOTE: One thing I would personally change around in my original comment,


Obviously the stock price is an important aspect in regards to public perception of a public companies worth/value. As such, my comment regarding the stock staying flat is not something that is going to be helpful to the morale of a MS employee. With this in mind, I really should change this to read: It is my opinion that the greatest thing that could continue to take place at MS is for the profits to continue to rise, yet the stock maintain a level consistent with that of a blue-chip stock. A 10-15% annual increase in stock value is something I believe is reasonable expectation for a company that continues to grow financially, and has such a diverse foundation of products and marketshare. A 10-15% annual increase of stock price sets the tone for more of a long term perspective in regards to an employees outlook on the future. While a 20 year attitude towards a career in ANY tech company other than IBM seems to defy the current "5-10 years is more than adequate" trend, personally, I think the general IBM attitude that this is a long term career is the attitude is the one that will provide both company and employee the greatest overall value in the long term. However, I'm still thinking on this last bit... I'm not completely convinced that its the correct attitude, and instead it just kind of feels right.

Rick Jelliffe
2006-05-24 21:17:12
Oh, any insincerity is not you wearing your blogger hat but you wearing your Borg integration unit! "You" as Mr XML Format from Microsoft, not you as Brian Jones.


I see that MS distributes Red Hat, as part of the virtualization freebie. Does that actually reduce MS' profit? I don't see how: it encourages people to stay. I think MS should seriously consider providing a good ODF plugin to encourage people to stay.


Even if MS supplied a ODF import library as standard part of Office, and contributed a nice open source Open XML export library to Open Office (encouraging a one way flow towards one's own system is a time-honoured ploy) would be way better than nothing.

Swaroop
2008-07-29 11:09:29
Nice info aboput XML